I made it back safe and sound from Johannesburg then immediately
went to Washington, D.C. with a delegation of music industry professionals
to meet with members of Congress. The event was dubbed "Recording
Arts Day" and was spearheaded by the Recording Academy which
brought together a broad based coalition of music industry organizations.
Our goal was to focus attention on the issues facing our industry
such as, Illegal downloading, and piracy. I think Recording Arts
Day was successful in sending the message that musicians, recording
artists, publishers, managers, and labels are all united in our
desire to protect the sanctity of copyrighted music.
From Jo'burg to D.C. Talk about changing gears!
South Africa was great, as usual. I love the people and the culture.
After four trips it is really starting to feel very familiar to
me. In the fact, the strangest experience I had was looking at
the BBC news broadcasts from New Orleans. What I saw on my Johannesburg
hotel TV looked more like an African phenomenon than an American
Masses of dark skinned people clinging to hope and a sack of
their belongings, shouting to an unseen audience on the other
side of foreign cameras to do something. We're not accustomed
to seeing those images emanating from the richest country on the
planet. That's supposed to happen far, far away in a place called
the Third World.
This whole event has been disheartening - the wrath and aftermath
of Katrina, as well as the feeble reponse of our government.
The only thing that lifts my spirits is seeing the actions of
people doing their part to help - particularly kids. They are
selling lemonade, having readathons, collecting stuffed animals
- doing whatever they can to make a difference.
I'm sorting through various things that I can do. There are lots
of ideas, such as concerts and other types of fundraisers being
considered. In the meantime, I believe the biggest, immediate
need is money. I am donating money to the American Red Cross as
I am hold right now with 1-800-HELP-NOW. The recorded voice asks
me to hold on because my call is important. Sometimes when you
hear that "your call is important to us" it seems just
like a formality.
Not this time.
Try it yourself: 1-800-HELP-NOW. If you don't like the hold music,
just hum one of my tunes to pass the time.
September 1, 2005
I am about to land in Johannesburg, South Africa. Whenever I told
someone I was taking this trip, invariably they would ask, "How
long is that flight?". They don't ask what the people are
like, or how is the food or music. Everybody wants to know about
Here's the answer. The flight from New York to Johannesburg is
three meals, two movies, six video games, seventeen songs, and
one half of a best-selling novels long.
It's also long enough to have an in-depth conversation with the
passenger next to you. Charlie is a South African returning from
vacation in Orlando, Las Vegas and New York. He is the owner of
a stationary wholesale business, which employs 80 people - no
small thing in a country where every job counts. He and his entourage
- wife, son, sister-in-law, and two nephews - had a ball in Disney
World, and enjoyed Vegas. The only dissapointment was that his
son wasn't able to be in the casinos. He's a nine year old poker
enthusiast. He was more excited about the prospect of getting
tips on Texas Hold 'Em than seeing Mickey Mouse in the flesh -
so to speak.
Charlie's wife really enjoyed the multitude of shopping choices
in Manhattan. They were wowed by the Nike store. I'm envious,
I've never been there.
Most remarkably, this South African family had one pleasure in
common, the sense of freedom from crime they felt in New York
compared to life in Johannesburg.
"You can wear jewelry in the street there", Charlie
remarked in amazement.
His wife added, "I was so afraid for people I saw talking
on their mobile phones in their cars, with their windows rolled
down. This could never happen in Jo'burg."
As the target of a car jacking she ought to know.
Charlie has done well with his stationary business. He's got
a huge house with a tennis court and the most essential accessory
in the Johannesburg suburbs, an elaborate security system, complete
with eight cameras.
With fear of crime being at the nexus of their life you might
expect Charlie's family to be bitter and hardened. Instead, their
attitude is stoic.
"The number one problem in my country is poverty. Where
there is poverty, of course there's crime."
Well said, Charlie, well said.
August 31, 2005
Job descriptions are fascinating. Take mine, for example: Bass
Player. You won't see many listings for this job in your Sunday
paper's classified section.
Then again you won't see job openings for Nuclear Physicist either.
This past weekend I encountered a dizzying array of folks with
multiple job descriptions.
I already told you about Tammy from the Jazz Cafe in Charlotte.
Her business card reads "Public Relations." This is
a half-truth in that she also does Artist Relations - meaning
she is at the beck and call of jazz musicians who need to go to,
say, Circuit City or Rite Aid. Isn't that a nice escape from corporate
Speaking of corporate America, that's where Tammy met the Jazz
Cafe's owners Kennedy and Mascot as well as the general manager,
By the way, where is Corporate America? Is it in the vicinity
of Middle America? Can you reach it from Central America?
I'm just wondering.
People grouse about Corporate America, but it must be nice. Everybody
running the Jazz Cafe smiles a lot. They are so nice. Apparently,
nobody has told them that jazz musicians are mostly a sour bunch.
Not me and my band, of course.
After Charlotte, we went to Nashville, where we received more
insight on job descriptions. The server at the hotel restaurant
was a comical blonde from Kentucky who was actually a harmonica
player and karaoke D.J. in real life. She established an easy
rapport by addressing us by our job descriptions.
"What would you like, Artist?", she asked, referring
Then: "More ice tea, Management?", she asked Luther.
And so on. Carl Cox was "Saxophone", Will Brock became
"Vocals", and Donald Robinson, who in real life is a
choir director (as well as keyboardist and producer, and composer),
was referred to as "Minister of Music. The best part, though,
was Lucien Dowdell's new name: "Production".
The irony of ironies is that I had just given Lucien a promotion
- from tech to production manager. This promotion does not come
with an increase in salary, but the change in status is intoxicating,
I like Nashville. It's obviously a great place for music and
strangers are friendly. It seems I've been there a lot the last
couple years - to teach at Victor Wooten's Bass/Nature Camp, attend
a trade show, and last year, I played Darryl Griffin's festival.
Darryl and his partners brought us down to play Nashville again
- in a club this time. If the harmonica playing waitress ever
met Darryl, she would undoubtedly dub him, "Promoter".
Before soundcheck, "Promoter" took me to WFSK to do
a live on air interview with Tory Barnett. Let's call her "Dee
When we arrived at WFSK, Promoter called to tell DeeJay he had
arrived with Artist. The station, owned by Fisk University, is
on the fifth floor of a campus high rise. Since it was a Sunday,
"Security" was off duty, and DeeJay had to run down
five flights of stairs to open the locked door. After an exceedingly
courteous hello - for someone who had just navigate five flights
with high heels - she led Promoter and Artist up five flights
to the studio.
We arrived in the studio just in time to hear a Stanley Clarke
tune fading. Tory, aka Dee Jay, calmly put on her headphones and
said in a breathy voice, "You're listening to Sentimental
Sundays on WFSK 88.1".
From my new foray into radio, I appreciate how difficult it is
to switch gears like that, although, I can't fully appreciate
the trickiness of going up and down five flights with high heels
and still have some charm left.
What's even more impressive, however, is that later that evening,
Tory came on stage and sang a "Nancy Wilson meets Erika Badu"
version of Summertime with the band. She sounded great. That's
right, she's also "Singer".
Multi-talented people abound at WFSK. After my show that night,
I met another radio personality who is a Phd. in real life and
yet another who introduced himself to me wearing his chef uniform.
I'm convinced all this role switching would give Tammy Greene
conniptions in her Corporate America day gig. What does she do
when she's not carting jazz musicians around Charlotte?
Human Resources, of course.
August 25, 2005
Riding in the Van with Tammy
You know it's going to be a good day when the promoter picks
you up wearing a Donovan McNabb jersey. Tammy Greene, originally
a Philly girl has opened a venue in Charlotte that is the envy
of the Southland. It's nice to know folks like her migrate to
warmer climates and business opportunities but keep the Eagles
close to their hearts.
Since the Eagles are in the midst of a public relations nightmare,
they could use the support of their fans. But you probably don't
care - you might be a Dallas Cowboys fan which means you've been
putting pins in a Terrell Owens voodoo doll in the off-season.
Anyway, this is not about the Eagles. It's about Tammy. Did you
know it's her birthday? How do I know? She mentioned it once or
twice. In fact, she said the reason we're here is to commemorate
her special day.
I don't think she was kidding
As I sit in the mini van she drove to personally pick us up,
I am starting to feel guilty that the band didn't bring flowers
or a citation from the Mayor of Philadelphia. I have exactly five
hours before showtime and I need to come up with some sort of
suitable gift for a hometown girl who loves jazz.
What do you give the promoter that has everything?
Of course, an audience! Duh...
There's going to be a great crowd at the Jazz Cafe tonight -
for sure. But I want to see one of those standing-around-the-corner
waiting to see the Rolling Stones kind of lines at the club
Here's how you can help: visit the website www.thejazzcafenc.com
and buy your ticket or tell someone that you know in Charlotte
to buy a ticket. We're playing the Jazz Cafe today, August 25th
and tomorrow as well.
This is not for me, it's for Tammy. By the way, I like her already.
She is optimistic. I like optimistic people. What else would you
call a person who endeavors to load a seven person mini van with
eight people, instruments and luggage?
When I’m juggling all the extra-curricular stuff I do with
actually earning a living as a musician, it’s hard to keep
up these journal entries. This is too bad, since I enjoy seeing
my thoughts on a computer monitor. It’s a great way to reassure
myself that my brain is working. One-word-at-time.
Since the last journal entry, I’ve been - as my friend
John Ernesto says - “runnin’ and gunnin’”
* Hosted two broadcasts of my radio show on WJJZ.
* Hosted two episodes of a new Hi Definition television show,
called Music Lab. Guests were Paul Jackson, Jr. and Bela Fleck.
* Went to the Chicago area for Candid Conversations & Jazz,
a unique event created by Denise Jordan Walker, featuring frank
discussion and music by yours truly in front of a live audience
* Was interviewed by a half dozen journalists from Johannesburg
* Played the CD 101.9 smooth jazz cruise in New York
* Was featured in a Memphis concert along with Boney James, Phil
Perry and Pieces of a Dream
* Performed at the Wilson Creek Winery in Temecula, California
with Pieces of a Dream and Mike Philips
* Played my Philadelphia CD release concert at the World Café
That was the last eight days. I’m not saying I’m
tired, but I feel like a bootleg version of myself. I look a little
grainy and my coloring is off. The sound of my voice is garbled
too, like there’s dust in it. When someone suggests that
I’m probably exhausted, I answer, “I feel fine”,
but my saggy eyes betray me.
I’m not complaining. I’m grateful for the opportunity
to do what I do. And I have boundless energy. I’m definitely
willing to travel.
I had to say all that in case you are a Hollywood movie producer
who is considering me for the next blockbuster that needs a hunky
black action hero.
The Way It Is
Today’s another hot one, making this officially a heat wave.
Weathercasters warn, “Don’t go out unless you really
have to.” The heat index numbers on the regional weather
map are all in the triple digits.
I like to think of myself as sanguine about the weather –
that I can take it, no matter what it is. My motto is Run DMC’s
“It’s like that…and that’s the way it
is”. In other words it’s hot, we can’t change
it, so just deal with it.
If only it were that simple. Complaining about the weather is
a national pastime. It’s also a ready-made conversational
“Another hot one, isn’t it?”
“Yep, you got that right!”
Or try this one:
“Can you believe this weather?”
“Phew. This is crazy!
The possibilities are limitless.
On the first day of my first trip to South Africa, one of the
local tour organizers said to me, “It’s so hot”,
while fanning himself. I thought, “What do you expect? This
is Africa!” It would have been impolite to say it out loud.
Maybe he was just establishing a rapport with me. How was he to
know that complaining about things you can’t change gets
on my nerves?
I need to be more tolerant.
I am starting to understand that suffering under the common abuse
of bad weather, bonds us together. If you could get the U.N. ambassadors
of two hostile countries, for example, to agree on how hot it
is, imagine the progress in international relations:
“Mr. Ambassador, we find your demands to be totally unacceptable,
but could we take a moment to get some lemonade? I’m parched.”
“Well, my government is extremely disappointed at your
unwillingness to meet us halfway, but maybe we should consider
an icy cold beverage. With this kind of heat, lemonade is certainly
an excellent choice.”
“Can you believe this weather?”
“Phew. Another hot one, indeed, Mr. Ambassador.”
“Please, call me Frank. More lemonade?”
“Thanks, Frank. Now, where were we?”
“We were discussing your government’s demands, which
I suggest we reconsider at poolside.”
Based on this powerful potential for establishing common ground,
I am softening my stance against weather-complainers. Whining
about the heat index is perfectly acceptable in the interest of
By the way, the current heat wave here in the Delaware Valley
is expected to break by next Sunday - just in time for my CD release
party at World Café Live (www.worldcafelive.com). However,
if the oppressive heat continues, it will give us more to talk
about – won’t it?
Sweat and Icons
This morning’s TV weather report promises a heat index
of 105 degrees later today. The thought of it makes me melt already.
It also changes my plans for this rare weekend off. I had planned
to do some house painting. The weatherman has provided me with
an excellent excuse to postpone this project.
Thank you, Accu Weather, whoever you are.
In terms of heat, last night here in Philadelphia wasn’t
much better. Roxanne and I attended The Trio concert last night
at the Mann Music Center. We put aside thoughts of the sweltering
heat and met friends of ours from Reading at the show. The crew
from Reading was the usual suspects, John Ernesto and his cohorts
who came down to Philly in a stretch limo. Style.
Thanks again, Ramona, for the tickets.
We had great seats to watch Bela Fleck, Jean Luc-Ponty and Stanley
Clarke play some of the most inventive music I’ve heard
in a while. Thanks to Ramona, who is obviously well connected,
our seats were just a few rows from the front. The only problem
was that at the Mann, an outdoor amphitheater under a shed, the
closer you were to the stage the hotter you were. If you sat perfectly
still, you could close your eyes and imagine it was only 90 degrees.
Thanks again, Ramona, for the tickets.
It was the kind of heat that you can smell. There’s dry
heat, there’s muggy heat and there’s heat that has
a distinctly unpleasant aroma. Under these conditions, you’re
bound to discover that someone has forgotten to apply an anti-perspirant.
You check to make sure it’s not you. I know what you’re
thinking – it wasn’t me – at least I don’t
I’m not being critical. What else would you expect to happen
when you assemble over two thousand people and place them in an
incubator designed to keep out the elements - like cool air? Exactly.
Heat you can smell.
I’m not complaining, though. As a rule, I don’t complain
about the weather. Besides, I was treated to a wonderful concert.
Bela Fleck was excellent. He played some of the trickiest passages
you could imagine on his 1931 vintage banjo. Meanwhile, he barely
broke a sweat – though he did wear a black headband just
Violinist Jean Luc-Ponty, who was a bit more animated on stage,
probably sweated a little – though certainly not because
of the difficulty of the music. He approached every song, no matter
how complex, as though it was as manageable as brushing your teeth.
And his solos contained one climactic moment after another –
there didn’t seem to be any limits to the heights he could
Most of the sweating was reserved for Stanley Clarke. His playing
on acoustic bass (except for one tune on electric) was at times,
ferocious. Stanley was “good cop/bad cop” all rolled
into one – interrogating a suspect – the bass. No
technique was spared. He strummed it, slapped it, plucked it,
and did everything you could do to a bass to make it talk. When
Stanley was through, the bass had confessed all. Unfortunately,
by the end of the interrogation, Stanley was soaked. His crisp
white shirt eventually became a dripping, clinging annoyance.
I felt bad for Stanley Clarke. I don’t want him to be bothered
by things like sweaty shirts. That’s for the rest of us
bass players. Stanley is an icon.
Stanley is the guy who invented this “bass player in the
front” thing that I do. I don’t care who else you
might mention to differ with me. There is no debate. It’s
Stanley Clarke, who, back in the heady days of jazz-rock fusion,
went toe to toe with Chick Corea and changed the idea of what
a bass could (and should) do.
Thank you Stanley Clarke.
Maybe that’s what I should say to Stanley next time I meet
him. I always get tongue tied in his presence and end up saying
something dumb. Once, he and I happened to be working in the same
studio facility here in town. Someone came into the studio where
I was working with the juicy tidbit, “Stanley Clarke’s
upstairs. Stop up and say hi.” I went to see my hero, trying
to appear casual, all the while rehearsing what I would say.
I opened the door to the studio lounge where my hero was seated
on leather couch having a laugh with some of his friends. For
a few seconds, none of them saw me and they were still enjoying
this apparently good joke. When I entered their space, however,
the laughter died down. I immediately felt like an intruder or
“Hi, Stanley, Gerald Veasley”, I extended my hand
for a handshake. We shook hands, but he didn’t get up. I
had met Stanley Clarke three times before. I have met him a couple
times since. I will never assume he knows who I am. Whenever I
greet him, I will always say my name.
“Hey, man, how are you?” Stanley asked.
Have you ever tried to make small talk with an icon? It’s
like trying to start a car with a dead battery. No matter how
hard you want it to go somewhere, it just won’t.
“Fine, thanks. How you doin’?” I inquired,
ever so casually.
“So you’re in town working on your new record, huh?”
“How’s it going?”
“It’s going great.”
Pause. I noticed his friends were studying me as though they
were watching a TV report of a flood. They were wearing expressions
of pity, mixed with relief that they weren’t the ones with
their houses underwater.
I thought about the next thread of delightful banter then I started
in again with more dead-end Q&A. To his credit, Stanley was
polite. He let me go on and on, about this and that, without dismissing
me. To my credit, I got out of the studio lounge without a Jerry
Lewis style tripping-over-your-own-feet incident. Come to think
of it, a good fall would have insured Stanley remembering our
By now, I know you’re probably thinking “Stanley
Clarke puts his pants on ‘one leg at a time’ like
Ok. But... what if he doesn’t?
Visit www.stanleyclarke.com and also check out The Trio if they’re
in your town. It’s worth the sweat.
If you’re in the Philadelphia area next Sunday, you’re
invited to my CD release concert at the World Café Live
- www.worldcafelive.com. This will be my first hometown appearance
in almost a year. It’s going to be a great show. I’m
putting in extra practice – trust me.
Thank you Stanley Clarke.
August 8, 2005
If you are a frequent visitor here and you noticed no recent
entries, it's because I went on vacation with my family. I took
along my laptop, but I was not interested in using it. I used
my Blackberry only in case of a dire emergency - like if somebody
needed my new CD or something.
I'm back online now and TJ and I are enjoying a slice of carrot
cake in a Border's book store. She's really into crafts these
days - the one she's decided on today is a bracelet maker. A couple
of weeks ago she made a potholder with the loom Roxanne picked
up for her.
This is great. Pretty soon she'll be knitting clothes for the
whole family. She will be the envy of the fourth grade and I will
have a new look. Colorful and warm, too.
My reason for coming to Border's is to check on my new record.
It's nice when you see it there with everybody else's.
Incidentally, I noticed in the jazz section there are a lot of
CD covers featuring people holding saxophones.
It's rare to see someone holding a bass guitar. I have nothing
to add to that observation - it's just something I noticed. Actually
- I'm embarassed to say it - it makes me feel special.
I have a guerilla marketing tactic that I employ in record stores.
When I see my CD, I casually pick it up and peruse the cover as
though I'm going to buy it. Then after glancing around to make
sure no one is looking, I place my record in front of the others.
I admit this is an effort that requires patience and cunning.
It also means having to visit about a thousand stores a week.
Hey, no pain, no gain.
Do you want to know what I'm buying?
Carlos Santana - Abraxas
David Sanborn - Closer
Joss Stone - Mind, Body & Soul
By the way, the carrot cake is tasty.
I've been getting a lot of belated birthday wishes lately. Please
stop feeling guilty. It's not a big deal - for two reasons:
1) There's always Kwaanza
2) My birthday is actually today.
Surprise. You didn't miss it. You just missed the party.
Incidentally, I missed the 35th birthday of a dear friend of
mine, Jazz Times magazine. To make amends, I sent the letter you
can read below.
Meanwhile, please stop feeling guilty and send me some chocolate.
What Do You Buy A 35 Year Old Magazine?
Dear Jazz Times,
Thanks for the subtle reminder that I missed your 35th birthday
this year. I know you probably never forgave me for missing your
30th, but as I told you at the time, I was really busy. Or not
feeling well - I don’t remember which.
This time around, I couldn’t decide what to get you, so
I’m contacting you directly to find out what you would like
for your birthday. I know you like surprises but I’m the
worst gift giver. One Christmas, I surprised my wife with an expensive
coat when she had asked for a watch. She tried it on and said,
“Well, it’s a beautiful coat.” I have learned
Before bothering you with this, by the way, I actually called
some of your magazine friends to see what they thought you might
like. I called Newsweek, who said “No comment”. I
called both DownBeat and Jazziz who did not return my phone calls.
I even called Fortune who pretended to not be familiar with you.
Didn’t you tell me you guys went to Amherst together?
My wife said, “Just think about what you wanted when you
turned 35”. I’m not so sure that works, in this case.
At 35, I wanted to be rich and famous, play jazz and have a set
of washboard abs. You can bounce a quarter off my belly.
Besides, you have done it all and seen it all. You’ve been
around the world and met some of the most fascinating people,
from Wynton Marsalis to …Wynton Marsalis. Just kidding.
You do have it all, though, J.T. I can remember when you were
an awkward adolescent tabloid, searching for approval. You’ve
grown to be so confident and dare I say it – good looking.
You are the Tom Cruise of magazines, buff and shiny with strong,
thoroughly researched opinions. My only hope is that one day,
you will find your soul mate like Tom did. Is it true that you
and Elle are an item?
To show you I’m serious about your birthday present, I’d
like to show you a list of some of the gifts I’ve considered:
1) A Blackberry. I couldn’t survive without mine. This
way you could return emails from readers and publicists while
you’re sunning in Belize.
2) A spa treatment. I saw this luxurious place on the Today show
where you could get pampered for about $1000 a day. You’re
so stressed. I could ask George Wein to chip in.
3) A consultation with a psychic. There is a psychic who, for
$175, can tell you everything you want to know. She’s very
good – all I need is the exact time and date of your birth.
Maybe she can tell you “the future of jazz”, since
you’re always asking.
4) A Louis Vitton satchel. I have one myself. A friend of mine
brought it back from Canal St. in New York. My wife says it’s
fake. She’s envious. Besides, you know me; I would never
illegally download a designer handbag. Knowingly.
5) A golf lesson with a pro I know down there in Silver Springs.
This is my way of suggesting you stop playing pick up games of
basketball. You’re not a kid anymore.
You can see my dilemma, J.T.
Let me know what you really want. What you really, really want.
Money is no object.
Another thing. Did you have a party? I’m sorry about what
I said to Nancy Wilson at your barbecue last year – two
beers is my limit.